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Malaysian PM Mahathir confirms RTS will proceed, but says it will ‘take some time’

Malaysian PM Mahathir confirms RTS will proceed, but says it will ‘take some time’

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at the launch of the National Transport Policy on Oct 17, 2019. (Photo: Bernama)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday (Oct 17) confirmed that Putrajaya will proceed with the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link between Johor Bahru and Singapore.

Speaking at a press conference following the launch of the National Transport Policy, Dr Mahathir said the Malaysian government has however asked for some time from Singapore.

“For the RTS, we will proceed, but we will take some time,” he said, without elaborating.

The RTS will connect Bukit Chagar in Johor Bahru to Woodlands in Singapore, and is expected to serve 10,000 passengers per hour each way. It was meant to be completed by 2024, but is now behind schedule.

In May, both sides agreed to suspend works on the RTS, which would address the cross-border traffic congestion, until Sep 30.

READ: Singapore agrees to suspend construction of RTS Link at Malaysia's request

As part of the agreement, Malaysia had agreed to reimburse Singapore for the abortive costs incurred - around S$600,000 - due to the suspension.

The suspension was extended at no extra cost for a month, to Oct 31, after a meeting between the transport ministers of both countries last month.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said when announcing the 2020 budget last week that Putrajaya “intends to proceed” with the RTS as a longer-term solution to address cross-border congestion.

READ: Malaysia to invest S$28 million to ease congestion at Causeway and Second Link, ‘intends to proceed’ with RTS

Earlier this week, Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook said Malaysia would make a decision on the RTS in the next two weeks.

Mr Loke said he would contact his Singaporean counterpart Khaw Boon Wan after obtaining the Cabinet’s approval on the matter.

Separately on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR), Dr Mahathir said it “will be postponed for two years”.

“The reason we postponed it is because of the high costs. We can’t afford it as our debts are too big. We are using all our money to pay up the debts left for us by the previous government.

“If it weren’t for those debts, the HSR project would be up and running now.”

Malaysia said they will review the implementation of mega projects such as high-speed rail link to Singapore. (Photo: MyHSR)

In September last year, Singapore and Malaysia formally agreed to postpone the construction of the HSR until end-May 2020, with Malaysia having to pay Singapore S$15 million for costs incurred in suspending the project.

During the suspension period, both countries would “continue to discuss the best way forward for the HSR project with the aim of reducing costs", according to a joint statement issued at that time.

READ: Singapore agreed to defer HSR project 'in the spirit of bilateral cooperation, says Khaw Boon Wan

In January, the Malaysian government said it has remitted to Singapore the "abortive costs" incurred for the postponement.

Source: CNA/kd(aw)


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